The crowd gathered at the Conservative Political Action Conference rose to its feet as Chris Christie exited stage left.
The New Jersey governor, who has been dogged by a scandal stemming from revelations that members of his administration conspired to shut down traffic lanes leading on to the George Washington Bridge, came to CPAC on Thursday in need of a reception like that, and the party faithful delivered.
Christie’s remarks were highly anticipated, not only because of the lingering scandal but also because CPAC brass dinged him last year by leaving him off of the guest list. Today, the governor was greeted with murmurs and some quiet cheers; he drew more excitement from the audience as he proceeded.
Currently the chairman of the National Governors Association, Christie used his remarks to praise the work of his colleagues across the country.
“Republican governors in this country have stood up and done things, not just talked about them,” he said. Praise for Republican governors like Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, Ohio’s John Kasich, and Michigan’s Rick Snyder drew cheers from the crowd.
Christie returned to a familiar theme, contrasting the labor of the GOP’s governors with the fecklessness of politicians in Washington. “The most dangerous ten feet in Washington, D.C., is between anybody who wants to talk about something and a camera,” he said.
As Republicans across the country campaign against Obamacare in advance of November’s midterm elections, the governor urged them to hit some positive notes, too. The GOP, he said, is for entrepreneurship and innovation and against the “cold, hard hand of government.” The party supports a strong national defense rather than “one that allows other countries to run us over all over the world.”
Speaking to an audience that stands to his right, Christie concluded on a cautionary note, tacitly suggesting that the GOP has hurt itself by nominating candidates that are too conservative.
“We don’t get to govern if we don’t win,” he said. “Let’s come out of this conference resolved to win elections again.”